While walking in San Francisco’s Crissy Field this morning, I was stunned to see the informational display about climate change defaced by graffiti reading “LIES” and “big government hoax.”
Instead of learning how to reduce our carbon footprint, why sea levels are rising and the impact of that, or how to protect the birds in the area, students who visit the park today will see graffiti claiming climate change isn’t real.
Known as a sanctuary city and the home of Nancy Pelosi, San Franciscans sometimes think the “left coast” is inoculated from Trump’s virus of hate infecting our country. The frightening trend of graffiti in our local parks shows there is no protected place.
Because I’m so sick of the public referring to sexist people, places, and things as progressive or liberal, because sexism is everywhere and women are trapped in double-bind that is hardly acknowledged, getting little or no support from our “allies,” staying stuck in a matrix that doesn’t allow us to achieve real power, I came up with this list.
Reel Girl’s Top 10 List Of “Progressive” People, Places and Things That Are Sexist:
The New York Times When this publication broke the story about Harvery Weinstein’s chronic sexual harassment and assault of women, the report was illustrated with a photo of Hillary Clinton with Weinstein. That’s right, Weinstein’s behavior is Hillary’s fault. The NYT is also the publication that kept stories going about Hillary’s emails and the “corruption” of the Clinton foundation throughout Hillary’s campaign. Aside from Hillary, I’ve blogged extensively about the many instances of sexism in the stories of the NYT, from what they choose to cover to the sources they use to cover it. My complaints have been posted in Letters to the Times. Just do a search on Reel Girl to see my posts on sexism at the Times.
My “progressive” male friends on social media: The men of Hollywood aren’t coming out to condemn Harvey Weinstein in the numbers that they should be, but what about my own male friends? While men I know and love regularly post about racism, police violence and other issues dear to their hearts, they rarely post about sexism and misogyny. My own posts about sexism rarely receive likes or shares or retweets from my male friends. Until our male friends join the fight for gender equality, prioritize it, consider it important, take action to support it, and stop being passive bystanders, women won’t get as far as we need to go.
My list is just a beginning, hopefully to publicize the wide reach of sexism and misogyny into almost every aspect of our lives. Feel free to add in my comment section your items of “progressive” people, places and things that are actually sexist.
I wish all the sexism and misogyny Hugh Hefner amplified and celebrated would die with him. Turns out, Hef gets to stalk into infinity: he paid $75,000 to be buried in the plot next to Marilyn Monroe.
It disgusts me that America (the world?) is celebrating this man.
Here’s an alumna’s comment from my fancy, I-was-so-lucky-to-attend-boarding school that many years later, was proven to be the site of numerous sexual assaults. Faulkner Fox writes:
At “Casino Night,” a required school event at St. George’s School, 14 and 15-year-old girls were asked to dress as playboy bunnies. Let’s just say it’s not one of my fondest childhood memories. All of the school’s sexism cannot be blamed on Hugh Hefner–of course not. But because of Hefner’s extraordinary cultural influence, one of the things we were asked to do–for fun–was dress as Playboy bunnies.”
Yes, we were 14 and 15. Sexism was so insidious at St. George’s and in life that all I remember caring about was how I looked in my bunny suit. I took down the yearbook pictures on Reel Girl of Casino Night and every sexist photo I had up of St. George’s that didn’t include me, because though the shame is on the school and not the girls shown, our culture is messed up and too many people don’t get that. I don’t have me in a bunny suit but I have this gem to share, a yearbook photo from St. George’s captioned: “Todd’s Toys.”
Don’t worry: I don’t blame entitled guys like you for all the sexism and misogyny at St. George’s. You were young. I’m willing to give you some leeway. Plus I didn’t overlap with you at St. George’s — I am class of ’81; you are class of ’90 — so I don’t know how you actually behaved back then. Let’s say you never said or did one sexist or abusive thing before you got on that bus with Donald Trump in 2005.
What you did on that bus in talking with Donald Trump in 2005 directly relates to what happened to your St. George’s classmates. I’m talking about the creation and perpetuation of rape culture, the entrenched belief that women and girls don’t matter the way men do, that we are here to be grabbed, harassed, raped. Whatever a guy can get away with is fair game, worthy of laughter and high-fiving from other guys on the same messed-up bus.
Hugh Hefner helped to normalize and mainstream objectification of women. His vision touched us all. Got a personal story of how this “cultural icon” helped to infect your life with sexism? Please share it on Reel Girl.
Clarissa Bird is a high school junior from Austin, Texas who is frustrated by the lack of female protagonists in the media and annoyed by the negative reaction from teens and adults to ’13 Reasons Why.’ She wrote this post defending the show for Reel Girl.
It’s not hard to find a reason to hate the show “13 Reasons Why.” I’ve gotten lengthy emails from my school principal and counselor on how dangerous the show is without proper adult supervision. I’ve had a friend tell me her parents wouldn’t let her watch the show after reading an article on how it glamorizes and simplifies suicide. I’ve seen the headlines on how the show neglects the underlying causes of self-harm and how the entire plot is driven by petty teen drama. And to an extent, all of these reactions are valid. The show has major faults ranging from the over-the-top stunning actors who are just a little too hunky to play teenagers to the unbelievable teen fantasy of getting a new car for homecoming to more serious issues like subtle victim shaming and simplification of a female protagonist.
But for all of its missteps, there is something about watching one of the main characters, Clay, roll around on his crummy bike trying to uncover Hannah’s story that had my eyes glued to the screen. There was some innate pleasure I took from watching this tragic, teenage girl’s life spiral out of control as love interests and friends continually pulled the rug out from under her. In fact I liked it so much I watched all 13 episodes.
But, upon hearing people in my math class condemn the show and all those who enjoyed it, I seriously started to wonder what the heck was wrong with me for watching it. I never even seriously considered how horrible the show was before hearing classmates rail on it. Am I a terrible, selfish, psychopath because I liked this show about teen suicide? Was I really that ignorant about mental health and suicide that I thought this girl’s actions weren’t so irrational? What made this show that turned my once down to earth, sensible, classmates into condescending, drama critics so addicting to me?
13 REASONS WHY
Hannah Baker’s relationship with her parents
Although the show is criticized for the fact that Hannah’s parents seem to be completely out of touch with their own daughter’s mental state, I found their relationship to be refreshingly relatable and not too far off base. One of my friends said that her main problem with their relationship was that the parents weren’t supportive enough, but it’s hard to support someone when they’re not really telling the whole truth. In “13 Reasons Why,” Hannah faces the familiar question of how much she’s really supposed to be sharing with her parents. Most high schoolers, including myself, tend to bend the truth or offer vague explanations in an attempt to satisfy the endless stream of parental inquiries. It’s a natural part of growing up to become more independent and this includes becoming more secretive and maybe not telling my parents exactly where I was last Saturday night or why I spend so much time “out with friends”.
A girl’s reality
“13 Reasons Why” does a great job of exposing all too common high school boy’s behaviors such as sharing non-consensual photos, objectifying girls through “best” and “worst” lists, and harassing and sometimes even assaulting girls. I loved watching it for this exact reason and from the moment I heard about the show I was excited to finally have a complicated, raw view of the teenage girl. As an audience we feel bad for Hannah when Justin shares intimate photos leading students to believe he had sex with her. We feel worse for Hannah when she kisses her friend on a dare and the rumor spreads she’s bisexual. We feel the deepest, gut-wrenching pain for Hannah when she’s raped. However, the show also reveals its moral universe as somewhere that Hannah’s rape can be labelled “worse” than her friend’s rape by the same boy, because in Hannah’s case she wasn’t drinking, smoking or flirting with the guy. And although I enjoyed the realistic portrait of a girl who can’t and won’t be pinned down or labelled as one thing, I was frustrated by Clay’s simplification of Hannah. He ultimately sees her as the victim of the school’s jocks, stalkers and petty girls and continually boxes her into the wholesome, girl-next-door character trope.
Inseparable from own life
One thing this show does painstakingly well is define a clear chain of events that leads to Hannah Baker taking her own life. From the first episode of the show, Hannah is portrayed as a normal, highschool girl who just wants to fit in at a new school. Although I knew the show ended with her suicide, I couldn’t help but root for Hannah hoping that maybe there was a twist ending and she was somehow alive. But, by the final episode I was in the same mental state as Hannah which I think is the major red flag for most people because the show seems to simplify suicide and blame other people for an ultimately self-inflicted act. I understood why Hannah couldn’t see a way to keep going. I could trace back all the horrible things that had contributed to Hannah’s current state from her being called the school slut, to her friends deserting her, to her going to a party and seeing her friend get raped, and later being raped herself. If this could all happen to the sweet, naive, painfully trusting girl then it could really happen to anyone. This contradicts the standard that only mentally ill people commit suicide and instead offers up the idea that maybe our own actions have a long-lasting result on other people’s mental state.
In “13 Reasons Why” we hear Hannah’s thirteen tapes through her charmingly innocent friend and love interest, Clay. Devastated, confused and overwhelmed by Hannah’s suicide, Clay listens to each tape and stews in the wrongdoings of his classmates. His anger gets the best of him in several scenes, like when he confronts Hannah’s stalker and when he gets in fights with the school jocks for tormenting and harassing Hannah. I couldn’t help but cheer as Clay brought justice to each perpetrator and I completely lost it when Clay went to Bryce’s (Hannah’s rapist) house to sneakily work a confession out of him. Episode to episode I couldn’t wait to see what Clay did next to somehow try and avenge Hannah’s death.
Ultimately, the main reason anyone picks up the show is try to figure why this girl killed herself. This show attempts to answer a question that may be impossible to answer over why anyone commits suicide. “13 Reasons Why” does this to the best of it abilities and although it has caused mass controversy, the show answers the burning question. Similar to murder mysteries like “Twin Peaks,” each episode clues the audience in on what really happened to Laura Palmer or in “13 Reasons Why,” why Hannah kills herself. While there’s a million problems with how the show portrays mental illness, female protagonists and suicide, I’ve got to admit every episode left me on the edge of my seat wanting more. It tells us that all these moments of Hannah finding out she has a stalker to being deserted by her best friends to being labelled as “easy” by every guy in school have led to her final decision to end her life. The show sucks you in by promising a concrete cause for suicide but the answer it gives seems simplistic, threatening and too widely applicable. Probably the biggest reason people have gotten so up in arms against the show is due the fact that they couldn’t help but watch the entire thing. I may be a drama-hungry teenager obsessed with answering every question I can, but it seems to me so is everyone else who watched the show no matter if they loved or hated it.
While I’m relieved to see America’s outrage at Judge Persky’s ridiculously light sentence for rapist and Stanford athlete Brock Turner, we’re reacting to one case of epidemic sexual assault in this country. Turner’s sentence is not an anomaly. In America, we accept rape culture. It’s normalized, and Persky acted the way judges do every single day.
It was two Swedes who reported Turner’s rape of this woman. Do you think two American frat boys would’ve done the same?
I’ve been reading Peggy Orenstein’s fantastic new book Girls and Sex in which author repeatedly references how the sex education programs in other countries are far superior to America’s curriculum, if we can call it that. One of the finest examples Orenestein cites is Sweden. How do most American kids learn about sex? Orenstein tells us the source of their education is porn.
What are American parents teaching their children about sex? What about violence against women?
I think we all know that Brock’s father argued his son’s life should not be ruined for “20 minutes of action.” Instead of teaching girls how not to get raped, when are parents going to teach their sons not to rape? How are parents going to teach kids to respect girls and women? What are you doing today to teach your kids about gender equality?
Are you coming to the Bay Area Book Festival June 4 – 5?
Here’s the poster my 9 year old daughter’s cartooning teacher, Aaron Southerland, made for the event. I love how it shows my daughter, her best friend, and her teacher wielding writing tools instead of weapons, because, truly, when it comes to changing the world, is there anything more powerful than art?
To learn more about Alice’s book or to buy it click here.
I read horrible shit every day as I know you do too, but this story of sexual harassment by a famous ethics professor at Yale made me cry. So hypocritical of Thomas Pogge, an intellectual star in the field of global ethics, and reminiscent to me of how “progressive” and “lefty” men– political leaders, professors etc– can be just as sexist and dismissive of women as anyone else. We need more women in power. Below you’ll find some quotes from the post, but please read the whole thing on Buzzfeed and share it.
In the 1990s, a student at Columbia University, where Pogge was then teaching, accused him of sexually harassing her. In 2010, a recent Yale graduate named Fernanda Lopez Aguilar accused Pogge of sexually harassing her and then retaliating against her by rescinding a fellowship offer. In 2014, a Ph.D. student at a European university accused Pogge of proffering career opportunities to her and other young women in his field as a pretext to beginning a sexual relationship.
Yale has known about these allegations, and others, for years. When Lopez Aguilar first reported Pogge for sexual harassment, she said, Yale offered to buy her silence with $2,000.
Eventually, a hearing panel did find “substantial evidence” that Pogge had acted unprofessionally and irresponsibly, noting “numerous incidents” where he “failed to uphold the standards of ethical behavior” expected of him. But the panel voted that there was “insufficient evidence to charge him with sexual harassment,” according to disciplinary records…
In October 2015, Lopez Aguilar filed a federal civil rights complaint, alleging that Yale violated Title IX, the statute that holds schools responsible for eliminating hostile educational environments caused by sexual harassment. Lopez Aguilar is asking the government to investigate whether Yale has ignored the “exhaustive attempts” she and others have made to prove Pogge is a danger to female students.
Her complaint also accuses Yale of violating Title VI, which prohibits race discrimination, on the grounds that Pogge specifically targets foreign women of color who were unfamiliar with how to navigate power in the United States.
The claims against Pogge pose critical questions about how universities manage the power dynamic between faculty members and students…
Lopez Aguilar grew up in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She was a star student who published a book of poems about social justice at the age of 13; when she applied to college, her high school adviser wrote that she would one day be president. She enrolled at Yale in 2006, and took one of Pogge’s classes as a junior. When he agreed to supervise her senior thesis the following year, Lopez Aguilar was thrilled…
“He was my mentor,” Lopez Aguilar said. “Now I see that I was naive, but I thought he actually appreciated me for my intellect. I was flattered that he saw promise in me.”…
Only Pogge and Lopez Aguilar know what happened in that room, and Pogge has insisted to Yale he never made sexual comments or advances to her. But she later told the university that he asked her to join him in his bed to watch a movie, The Constant Gardner, on his laptop, with the lights off. That he said he couldn’t look at her in a black dress she wore because it was too “dangerous.” That he said perhaps she would consider marrying him someday. That he told the hotel staff to call them “Mr. and Mrs. Pogge.” That he mentioned he had been accused of sexual harassment at Columbia, and said she was “the Monica Lewinsky to his Bill Clinton…”
Eventually, Yale offered her a $2,000 settlement, on the condition that she sign away her right to pursue further claims against Pogge or the university — or to tell anyone about Pogge’s behavior from “the beginning of the world to the day of the date of this Release.”
The federal government has said that it’s illegal to use conditional nondisclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases. But Yale treated Lopez Aguilar’s report as a workplace dispute, ignoring her claims of sexual harassment, her recent complaint states.
She signed the agreement. She said she didn’t think she had any recourse…
The following spring, however, 16 other current and former students filed a Title IX complaint with the Department of Education claiming that Yale had failed to properly address their sexual misconduct claims. A formal investigation was opened. (It concluded that Yale had underreported incidents of sexual violence “for a very long time,” among other violations.) Their complaint had nothing directly to do with Pogge, but it motivated Lopez Aguilar to try again…”
When my 9 year old daughter, Alice, and her best friend Jenna took Aaron Southerland’s cartooning class, he inspired them to get passionate about creating their own cartoons. Aaron teaches boys and girls, but it was these two students who pushed him take their ideas further as you’ll see when you read his post. Alice and Jenna are so proud to publish their first book and are already brainstorming the next one. With more experiences like this one, the next generation of girls may take us leaps and bounds closer to achieving equality in the comic world. At the end of the blog, there’s a link to buy Alice and Jenna’s creation, The Muji Story (only $2.99!) Here’s how it all went down. This blog is by Aaron Southerland and first appeared on Blue Aura Oasis.
There are many times in which the Winds of Fate will pull you in a direction that doesn’t quite meet your game plan. Usually, it’s by nature that we all will plan against reality since we believe it’s ALL in the palm of our hands.
Thankfully, that’s not the case!
Once my two Cartooning classes were underway in autumn of 2015, I dipped my bare cold feet into rather warm water. Both classes were composed of deeply impressionable elementary school students, all of which had either an inkling or fine reasoning as to why they wanted to learn the ways of the Cartoonist. Take it from this slim fit jazz buff; I was impressed.
While my K- 2nd grade group took a few weeks to warm up to my existence, my 4th- 6th grade group couldn’t help but peek at my book projects -especially SolForce– at least once a class for inspiration. Midway though the semester, I noticed that I was slowly but surely giving the students revised character designs, story ideas and even comic titles! Of the ten students, only a few of them produced concrete ideas to take them a step further.
Allow me to introduce you to two of my Cartooning proteges: Jenna and Alice!!
Starting out as close friends since the 1st grade -their words, not mine-, Alice and Jenna joined my first Cartooning class already in love with three things: animals, magic, and comedy. When asked on the first day of class what were their favorite comic or cartoon characters, both replied Calvin & Hobbes; I almost teared up. Oddly enough, talking with them both together made me consider how much in common they have with my 5th grade- self. In the olden days of my youth, Pokemon, Harry Potter, and SpongeBob SquarePants were my pop culture obsessions. They ended up having a huge pull on my art style and storytelling, just as much as the Looney Tunes, Pink Panther and Garfield comics had on me since I picked up the Crayola crayons in pre- K.
Working alone for the first seven weeks of class, Jenna created an assortment of animal characters for a household setting that included a trouble-making beagle, a wildly sweet cockatoo and a shy kitten. Me and her often debated on names; the cockatoo’s name being Snowy was fitting, but Spot for the beagle I thought was too… common! So, I suggested a name with more weight on it like Magnus! Jenna brings that incident up every chance she gets. Oh, the hilarity.
Alice created characters more for the forest. Her first was a rascally rabbit named Flora. The others were a wildcat, a bluejay bird and a fish that I redesigned as a mud-skipper. Look; when I meet anyone of any age with a genuine love for animals, I try to expand to expand their vocabulary even if the next sentence is ‘I DON’T WANT HER TO BE A DOG. SHE’S A PUPPY!’
Fast forward to week eight of the class, the duo told me that they wanted to make a comic together. I assumed that they wanted to make new characters, so I let them roam free for 30 minutes. And this is what they came up with:
Yes. Within 40 minutes, this character concept and story summary were drawn and written by them! What I managed to get out of them was this: there’s a school of monsters that all look and act similar, but out of the blue an evil sorceress casts a spell on them all which causes the monsters to mutate with differing animal body parts. Now, they embark on a quest to find that sorceress to reverse the spell!
Huh!…. The idea hooked me, especially for a comic that can have continuing stories. So, I told the girls that I’m taking home their summary and character for some editing. -they hate that word, by the way- Later that Thursday night, this ended up being the revised summary and character design.
At first, I thought I took too many liberties with the character design. “How can two 4th graders draw something like this?!” I thought in the WAY back of my cynical adult brain… But after witnessing the passion Alice and Jenna had for creating something original content and telling a story, all of those doubts were dropped that night. And I even helped give the monster species a name: the Muji. The main character I thought should have a name that youthful and connecting like its creators, so I named him Kee! His circular spiked body type and bat wing- crab arm fusion served as the basis for the Muji designs.
Next week, I presented them the revisions… and their excitement flew sky high. Within minutes, we were drawing out comic thumbnails! As a parting gift for the semester, I drew them a visual concept of the Muji comic:
This, of course, led Jenna to asking a very peculiar question when all of the other students left the room: “Can we, like, make this into a book like your stuff?!”
I looked at her mom with a big smirk and asked ‘When can we start?’
Folks, this is what led to Alice and Jenna being my “first clients” in comic creating. After a few weekend classes thanks to their mothers, Margot and Noelle, and another full ten week semester, I’m happy to present their first book, The Muji Story!
Donned with 24 black and white pages, the three- chapter book follows the band of parasite- like creatures that after exposed to a hex casted by Ali- Tabada, an evil sorceress-in-training, mutate as combinations of animals, and now must find a remedy to reverse the hex!
The Muji Story, according to the duo, was only the beginning. Over their summer break, not only do we plan to work further on “Book 2” of the Muji series, but they’re also joining me at my first book expo in the Bay Area: the Bay Area Book Festival!! We’ll be located in Teen Town, since our projects are all- ages graphic novels. I’m beyond excited to see what the future has in store for my students and I.
Or… just call us “AJA” if we’re all spotted together.
Buy a copy of Alice and Jenna’s book! To purchase The Muji Story click here.
Feeding into his undying love for cartooning and animation since pre- K, Aaron Southerland is a helpless cartoonist and writer from Brooklyn, NY. Over the past few years, Aaron has been reaching into the untapped potential of creativity he saw within elementary school children through various volunteer work as an art teacher and it even led to many of his students creating their own cartoon characters! Currently, Aaron lives in Emeryville, CA and completed a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in Computer Graphics from the New York Institute of Technology. After attending the Academy of Art University as a Visual Development and Screenwriting major for a brief period, he decided to finally put his passion into gear by going into book publishing between his travels. Aaron is the sole owner and artist behind his blog, Blue Aura Oasis.
The report states that a St. George’s campus security officer, Christopher Simanski, called 911 when he saw a male climb out the window of an all girls dorm and run towards the road with no shoes on. When Middletown police officer David Hurst arrived on the scene, Simanski told him he’d chased the male but couldn’t catch him. Simanski returned to the dorm, went to the room with the window, and saw a girl sitting on her bed crying, another girl sitting next to her. He wrote that she was upset, visibly shaken, and “indicated there had been a male in her room and on her bed.”
While Simanski was recounting the events to Hurst, the dean of students, Katie Titus, came out of the dorm and approached them. What do you think happened next? She helped them investigate a possible crime, right?
Here’s how Hurst tells it:
I asked Titus where the alleged victim was and Titus ignored my question and only replied by telling me that the girl was upset. I asked Titus again where the alleged victim was and again she did not answer me. I reiterated to Titus that I was there to investigate a possible assault or sexual assault and that I would need to speak to the victim to determine the nature of the incident and obtain crucial information for any possible suspects.
Titus still refused to let Hurst investigate, insisting that she would speak for the victim. She would speak for the victim? Hurst continued to press her, letting her know that he needed vital information. Titus gave him some information of her own. She said she knew the male who ran from the window. He was student who had just graduated. But then, she refused to give the officer his name or any other facts about him.
When 911 is called and there’s a report that a girl may have been sexually assaulted, how the adults around her respond makes a world of difference. They can ensure that she gets immediate professional treatment and care, optimally provided by a team that includes a medical provider, a sexual assault examiner, and a rape crisis counselor. They can facilitate police evidence collection, which depending on the jurisdiction, needs to happen within days following the incident. This kind of rapid response leads to better health outcomes for victims and an increased chance that associated criminal charges are filed.
So what happened next?
According to the report, Titus told Hurst that she’d reached the recent graduate on her cell phone. (She had his number on her cell? Maybe that’s totally normal for a dean’s contact list in these digital days?) The nameless male assured Titus that he hadn’t been on campus. Hurst writes in his report: “Titus apparently accepted the alibi at face value.” Again, she refused to give Hurst any more information about him. I haven’t read many police reports but this seems like an odd order of events. Was Titus trying to pacify the officer at first, saying she knew the male, thinking he’d leave it all alone, let her take this mess over? Then, when Hurst asked for more information, did Titus regret telling him she knew his identity? We’ll never know because just at that moment, Titus was called away for a family emergency.
Assistant dean, Lucy Goldstein, arrived on the scene to take over. More police officers also arrived, including a lieutenant who insisted on speaking to the girl to confirm the chain of events. At that point, Goldstein went and talked to the girl for 20 minutes before allowing the lieutenant to speak with her. The girl told him that she let the male into her room, they started kissing and he wanted it to become more intimate. She “declined” and he “agreed not to press the issue and left through the window.”
The report ends with:
Having no further evidence of a crime or witnesses to come forward to contradict the series of events, all units cleared from the scene. School safety supervisor Lombardi advised that he would follow up in the morning regarding how the school staff handled the initial investigation and its cooperation or lack there of in the investigation conducted by this department.
I don’t see any information that a follow up actually happened.
SGS for Healing writes that the report raises a number of questions including: Why didn’t the SGS Dean Katie Titus immediately allow the officer to see the female student? Why did the Middletown police call Ms. Titus uncooperative? Why did Ms. Titus call the adult male? Why didn’t she help the officer talk with him and why did she refuse to give the adult male student’s name and telephone number? Sometime after the Middletown Police were on the scene, a female sexual assault officer from Newport arrived. Why did the school continue to refuse to allow her access to the alleged victim? How did the school help the student get professional treatment and care? How were the police aided in gathering physical evidence?
Last night, I saw “Spotlight,” the movie about the sexual abuse and the Catholic church that just won the Best Picture Oscar. There’s a great line: “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse them.” This story is so much bigger than St. George’s. It’s about how when institutions (whether its the church, the government, businesses, or schools) are put before individuals, children suffer. Ultimately, we all do because this pattern of abuse happens far too often and isn’t symptomatic of the kind of world healthy people have the great potential to create.
Reel Girl’s posts about St. George’s are below. If you read them, you will see that as an alumna of the school, I started to write about the institutionalized sexism I witnessed there long before I learned about the rapes and cover-ups.
This is an open letter from St. George’s alumna Jocelyn Davis to Bishop Nicholas Knisely, the Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Rhode Island and Honorary Chair of the school’s Board of Directors. St. George’s is a prep school in Middletown, Rhode Island where sexual abuse was covered up by those in power for decades.
Davis emailed Knisely on February 16, and he has not responded to her yet.
If you would like to send your own letter to the Bishop, please feel free to cut and paste from this one if that’s helpful to you. The more voices he hears calling for change, the more likely he is to take action. The bishop’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re not familiar with the St. George’s sexual abuse and rapes, you can find all of Reel Girl’s posts about the school after the letter.
Here is Jocelyn Davis’s letter.
Dear Bishop Knisely,
I am an alumna of St George’s School (class of 1980). I understand the school is chartered by the Episcopal Church, Diocese of Rhode Island, and that you are Honorary Board Chair. You therefore have an extra measure of influence over the governance of the school, and that’s why I’m writing to you.
I have learned of the past abuses with a dismay I’m sure you share. A number of my classmates were affected. My dismay deepens, however, when I read about the actions of school leaders—leaders still in place today.
Dozens of children were raped or molested over decades. School leaders have condemned the abuse and funded an investigation; well and good. But what about those leaders who until a few months ago (and in some respects up until now):
– Failed to report the abuse to Rhode Island authorities, as required by law
– Failed to notify institutions where abusers were later employed, even after being specifically asked to do so by survivors
– Quibbled about the reporting laws as a way to excuse their inaction
– Placed gag orders on survivors, telling them what they can and cannot talk about
– Were dismissive of those survivors who mustered up the courage to demand meetings
– Denigrated survivors as malcontents, gold-diggers, or substandard students
– Reacted to the news not with heartfelt apologies, self-examination, and personal ownership, but with facile reassurances that “all that was in the past and everything is fine now”
– Have been dragged kicking and screaming by attorneys and the press, every step of the way—and then have had the gall to complain about “unfair” lawyers and media
I am aware of the ongoing independent investigation, and I can appreciate that it is impossible for you to take action until it is complete. Nevertheless, I urge you to reflect on the above points. I further urge you to use your influence, as soon as possible, to help bring about a wholesale change of leadership at St George’s, so a fresh start can be made.
For a specific plan to that effect, please see the website www.rebootsgs.com , created by my fellow alums Chris and Philip Williams.
One last thought: In my senior year at SGS, we read Dostoyevsky’s story of “The Grand Inquisitor.” I’m sure you know it well. In the fable, Christ returns to earth and is arrested. The Grand Inquisitor, pillar of the Church, visits him in his cell to tell him the Church no longer needs him; indeed, that the Church rejects his message of “individuals first” in favor of Satan’s message of “institution first.”
I can’t help but wonder whether Christ is knocking at the door of St George’s School right now. Forty-plus individuals, courageous survivors of abuse, are standing at his side, calling for justice. I hope you will open the door and stand with them.
Jocelyn Roberts Davis ‘80
Reel Girl’s posts about St. George’s are below. If you read them, you will see that as an alumna of the school, I started to write about the institutionalized sexism I witnessed at the school long before I learned about the rapes and cover-ups.